What Question Is Jesus Trying to Answer in the Beatitudes?

The Trajectory of Sanctification

In the Beatitudes, Jesus is answering the question, What does it look like to belong to God, to be a child of God?

Now, the world has an answer to that: successful. I minister in a town called Naperville. It’s a wealthy suburb of Chicago. I call it the “achieve-a-tron.” It’s where you prepare your child for the SAT exam at age six. It’s very driven and all about achievement.

But the church has its version of this. Norman Vincent Peale memorably said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” We can do whatever we want to do with the resources of grace. And there’s a sense in which the Holy Spirit, of course, empowers us.

The Upside Down Kingdom

Chris Castaldo

The Upside Down Kingdom examines how living according to Jesus’s Beatitudes can cultivate God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, bringing peace and blessing to our broken world.

I remember as a new Christian thinking, I have the Holy Spirit, I have God’s word, I have the church, so I should improve every day and in every way.

But it’s not as simple as a single upward trajectory. There are these ups and downs, this undulating movement through which we pass. When theologians describe this, they sometimes use the term upsilon vector. Following Jesus’s footsteps, it describes this descent and apparent defeat and humility and brokenness. We land in the valley before we ascend in consummate victory by the resurrection. And that’s our experience.

We think of Paul. He goes into a city, he preaches in a synagogue, some people believe. It’s not long, however, before a multitude drags him outside of the city and they stone him and they leave him for dead, as in Lystra.

How do we make sense of this? Well, the Beatitudes provide the logic for understanding it. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” It’s a counterintuitive turn. It is, if you will, an upside down kingdom.

And that’s why the apostle tells us to look not at that which is seen but at that which is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Chris Castaldo is the author of The Upside Down Kingdom: Wisdom for Life from the Beatitudes.

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